Flexible working benefits employers as well as employees
With schools going back this week, it’s business as usual on the roads for Britain’s commuters. But new research commissioned by Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplaces, suggests that many employers are finally freeing staff from the daily commute, with two in five professionals (39%) able to work from locations other than the company’s main offices for at least half the week. This helps them reduce the cost and stress of with commuting and reclaim the hours lost in limbo between their work and home lives.
The 2500-strong poll found that this new flexible workstyle benefits employers as well as staff. Over two fifths (43%) of workers report that they put in longer hours when they don’t have to commute, highlighting the link between flexible location and productivity. 67% of workers also say they spend more time with their partner and family and 60% spend more time exercising and getting fitter.
However, many workers’ aspirations to reduce the frequency of their commute are still thwarted by employer attitudes. 28% cited “company culture” as the main reason for single location working, implying the perceived need to be seen at their desk. This is despite the fact that a full half of respondents report that they have all the tools and technology they need to work anywhere.
Flexible working has hit the headlines over the Games as thousands of workers avoid travel into the Capital, but it is noticeable that many firms in the South East have focused their contingency plans on home working. However, this is often an unpopular and impractical option for staff. Many people miss the social interaction of the office and the clear separation of their professional and personal lives. Previous research has shown that less than 10% of professionals actually want to work from home.
For the two in five professionals who are genuine flexible workers, it seems that the key to success is having a choice of ‘third places’ – neither their home nor their office – such as local business centres, libraries and co-working hubs that allow them to avoid domestic distractions without a commute.
Steve Purdy, UK Managing Director at Regus comments: “September signals the return to normal traffic levels for commuters across the country and I’m sure many will spend their journey this week wishing they could work closer to home. Fortunately the number of professionals that are now able to choose between different work locations is substantial, although too many firms equate flexible working with home working. We are seeing a growing number of workers – from small business owners to executives of global corporations – working several days a week at their local Regus centre to avoid commuting to their company offices and to have a refreshing break in their normal routine.
“Congestion is reported to be one of the major sources of stress, so it is very significant that workers reveal that the time saved on commuting would be spent on health and wellbeing activities such as getting fitter at the gym and spending time with family. Confirming previous Regus research linking happier and healthier workers to greater productivity, more than half of professionals say they devote at least some of the time saved on gruelling commutes to working more. So the benefits of flexible working are twofold, on the one hand workers are more relaxed and healthy and on the other they are also more productive benefitting the business too.”
One example of a firm that strives to minimise commuting for its management and staff is Portsmouth-based business and education consultancy, The IBD Partnership.
Raja Ali, CEO, comments: “I know from personal experience that commuting is a mental and physical drain, and one that easily knocks work-life balance out of kilter and saps productivity. So with our staff we try to be flexible and work where, when and how it suits us to get the job done most effectively – whether that’s at home, in the office, at the local Regus centre or on the move. In my business, we no longer have a fixed desk for each member of staff, where they work all day every day.”
 “Why Place Still Matters in the Digital Age”, ZZA Responsive User Environments, October 2011